2008: Angry Boycott of Carrefour Department Store in China For Supposed Tibetan Connection

In 2008, some Chinese became very upset that one of the major stockholders in the French department chain store Carrefour was supposed to have contributed some money to support the Dalai Lama.  I did a series of translations from Chinese media and internet that could help understand that story. 

Carrefour Boycott Blog Rant: Passion, Anti-elitism, Sense of Menace

Below is an summary of Chinese blog article about the April 2008 Chinese Carrefour excitement.

An anti-elite rant, passion, a sense of the life and death danger that China confronts on the international stage, and the strongly put argument that all Chinese should take a certain stand because they are Chinese run through a recent pro-boycott Carrefour blog posting. Not to say this is representative, it is well written and passionate. A data point.

Reading this blog entry makes it easier to understand why some people worry about Chinese fascism (though fascism is used more as a swear word that as one having a well agreed upon meaning — like the words terrorism, imperialism and neo-colonialism.) One Chinese businessman told me a few months ago that the Cultural Revolution was Chinese fascism. The anti-elitist rage in the blog and the feeling that China is in great danger today is an example of the kind of rage that is fostered partly due to problems in Chinese society but also as a by product of the Great Red Propaganda machine. Susan Shirk discussed this in her book China: The Fragile Superpower.

I  found the blog posting was found by searching on the first two characters in Carrefour’s Chinese name, rather than on the full name which was excluded from search results during the last week of April up to May 3 or so, apparently by government order.

There are many fewer blogs mentioning the word Carrefour on May 2, just. 400 as of 8 PM Beijing time. The blog count mentions of Carrefour, plus a few other hits containing Jiale, for the last week.

After Carrefour searches were restored (the net authorities banned search engines from responding to that search term for a time) on May 4, I went and rechecked the data, putting in the results for a search on the entire three character name rather than the first two. Although I noticed a number of non-Carrefour hits when I searched on the first two letters, a search on the full name brought up more hits when I checked again. The results of the check on the full name are in parenthesis. About a 20% difference between the two. I was expecting fewer hits on the full name, but there were more. No explanation, hard to know when we know the PRC Propaganda Department is not averse to manipulating information.

May 3 (1000)
May 2 400 as of 8 PM Beijing time (1188)
May 1 2066 (1588)
April 30 1704 (2105)
April 29 1884 (2234)
April 28 1733 (1944)
April 27 1953
April 26 2481
April 25 3487
April 24 3881
April 23 5191
April 22 6992
April 21 8412
April 20 7732

The post, entitled “On the Carrefour Affair” disagrees with an earlier widely circulated blog posting “I’ll be going shopping at Carrefour on May 1”   and mentions two well sorry this page does not exist or was deletedknown anti-boycott arguments by by Bai Yansong and the words of Jiang Yuzi, a PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

While the post encouraging people to go to Carrefour despite the calls for a boycott is still online,  the authorities deleted the blog post summarized below.


Summary of “On the Carrefour Affair”

I have to differ with both of them. Bai says that we shouldn’t boycott Carrefour, and makes some good points. Jiang views are the elites talking to the grassroots. But both of them have their shortcomings.

That so many people have been posting about the Carrefour boycott, that shows that there is something to this. What does it show? It shows the solidarity of Chinese people. As far as the view that boycotting Carrefour is unreasonable, well hey, acting reasonably isn’t the only way of handling things. The Japanese visiting the Yasukuni shrine and the international community criticized them rationality for some time, but what result did it have?… Was America’s attack on Iraq reasonable? No, but Saddam was caught. After the Twin Towers were hit, did the U.S. government and people act reasonably? No, but ever the U.S. has not had a comparable terrorist attack since. So Bai’s point that the boycott is unreasonable makes sense — the goods boycotted are Chinese and people unemployed as a result are Chinese. But where does the money that Carrefour makes go? Into the hands of the French!

As for Jiang Yu, as the spokesperson of the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to talk like Bai Yansong is much more like the elites talking down to the people at the grassroots. Now Bai Yansong — he might have a reasonable view or not, but he has nothing to do with the elites. Now if Bai Yansong is part of the elite, what does that make Jiang Yu? A devil?…

As for the view of that blogger who says that he doesn’t care about China’s situation, he doesn’t pay attention, that kind of view really disappoints me. That person said that this just stirred up by some people who want to make some noise. What about Lu Xun, when he wrote about China’s situation,was he just fulfilling his need to express himself? Now if Chinese were to express themselves, say 500 for and 250 against the boycott, what good would that do? It would just show some people care about the boycott while others care more about economic benefits. Really, in front of the French, a position stronger than the students’ position should be taken here. Your reasonableness is excessive. If you are too reasonable, than when you are hit on the left cheek you should present them with your right cheek. This shouldn’t be called reasonableness, it is fear of getting into trouble, it is weakness. In these times, are these people who want to speak out, and not weaklings like you.

As for that blogger who says he doesn’t care about the Olympics. However, the Olympics won’t directly benefit every Chinese. If the Olympics weren’t important, why would so many countries compete for the right to host it? It represents the strength of nations — it is like meat put before starving people. He who eats lives, he who doesn’t dies. Taking things slowly, a step at a time is a recipe for death. We have to admit that China is not strong in many ways, and in some ways very weak. It is just for that reason we need to establish a place for ourselves in the world. It has to be a special place, since there isn’t a lot of meat, and some people got there first and are already taking it. If we don’t use special methods to get our piece of meat, why then we will die in the competition. He got gets the meat lives, and survives to engage in other competitions. Every country before it becomes strong has to go through a period in which it is finding its way. We as Chinese know many of the dark sides of China, but what do we know about the dark sides of other countries? If you want to know, will other countries tell you? Therefore don’t say things about China. Your are Chinese and you should believe your government.
What has happened recently has happened to other countries that host the Olympic Games. What a country get the right to host the Olympic Games, it makes other countries jealous. Now the Olympic Flame has already come back to China. The Olympics will be held soon. Will some countries choose not to participate? When the time comes, it won’t be that they are not giving face to China, but not giving face to the International Olympic Committee. Will they want to host the Olympics themselves later on? All those things they are doing proves that China is strong and this makes them afraid. So they encourage Taiwan, and encourage the Dalai [Lama]. As a Chinese, we should feel infinitely proud of what we are doing with respect to the Dalai [Lama], the Carrefour Affair, and the Olympics. Because we are now getting to a more and more important place among the great nations. What we need to do is to trust and support our government. Because no other country will help us ordinary Chinese. The one that can protect us best is always our very own government!

Because we are Chinese!

End of summary

Chinese text of deleted posting “On the Carrefour Affair”  now replaced by a delete notice as shown in the image above.

关于“家乐福事件” (2008-05-02 16:39:21)

标签:家乐福 表现欲 奥运会 白岩松 中国 姜瑜 杂谈 分类:随感杂谈































































Google Trends China on Carrefour Boycott Search by Chinese Net Users

Boycott search trends in Google.CN searches can be examined using Google Trends, now available on Google.cn Although the three character name for Carrefour is now banned as a search result, I can still search on Carrefour by using the first two characters in the name. Most of the results are for Carrefour.
Google Trends tracks searches on particular topics in the Google
database (here apparently the Google.cn database which is not the same as the Google.com database — sometimes Google.cn has more on particular searches than Google.com . Some items are removed by censors from Google.cn) While the data needs to be taken with some reserve, it can be handy as a hypothesis generator. It gives some ideas to check out. For example, it returns data on which areas the particular search is more common as a proportion of all searches (not absolute numbers). Thus smaller cities like Wuxi might outrank Beijing even if there were more searches done by Beijing internet users.

Google Trends is available on Google.cn at http://www.google.cn/trends
Internet searches can be an indicator of popular interest in a topic and how it varies within a country.

Here I used Jiale 家乐 as a proxy for Jialefo 家乐福 since the full name of Carrefour is blocked. Some other Jiale mixed in, but mostly those searches will be about Carrefour. You can do the search yourself by clicking here — http://tinyurl.com/648o24 You can customize the search by choosing your own time frame. I chose “the last thirty days.”
The second peak in searches in intriguing. Perhaps there were more searches at the end of April because of the approach of the May 1 boycott date?

Cyberpolice Ban “Carrefour” Searches in Chinese


There were many articles critical of the Carrefour boycott, directly or by implication, in this weekend’s Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend). Southern Weekend is usually an outlier for a communist paper but probably not this time, with the boycott-critical articles in the PRC media, it seems the Propaganda Department has a similar view now. Along with the boycott criticism articles along with a detailed chronology, and an interview with the French ambassador who debunked the support of Dalai Lama by a minority Carrefour stockholder that had heated things up popular passions.
Several opinion pieces warned about the danger to society of extreme views and extreme populism. Reform needs people on both sides willing to compromise, said one writer.
Now the cyberpolice are clamping down.

A search on Google.cn the Chinese words for Carrefour 家乐福 came up blank. Looks like Jingjing and Chacha have decided the cyberpolice need to do something even if it risk the righteous wrath of the patriotic masses who are standing tall against those pesky foreigners. The blocking is only on Chinese language searches on Carrefour.
Censorship can be beaten, however. Searches using the first two characters 家乐 of the three character name for Carrefour do work, however, with about 20 – 30% non-Carrefour hits thrown in. Censorship filters can also be beaten by adding spaces within a search term.
无法访问您所搜索的信息,请返回google.cn 查询其它信息.

“It is not possible to visit the information you seek, please return to Google.cn and search for other information.”
A search on the first two characters 家乐 of Carrefour’s Chinese name worked however, although it also picked up a relatively small number of non-Carrefour hits.
A search on Carrefour worked on Google.cn — 14.5 million hits.
Google.com (server located outside PRC) is unaffected — 6.5 million hits on Google.com
On Baidu.com only three hits http://www.baidu.com/s?wd=%BC%D2%C0%D6%B8%A3+

The were many more 212,000 hits on “Carrefour” than on its Chinese name.
CN.Yahoo.com: no hits — 您输入的关键词可能涉及不符合相关法律法规的内容。
“The the content of the search term you entered possibly does not comply with application laws and regulation.”

The CN.Yahoo response contains the search term while the Google.CN response a bit more straightforward response with a blank page and the words
“It is not possible to visit the information you seek, please return to Google.cn and search for other information.”
The Google.cn is in the tradition of not admitting to censorship — James Fallows has an article about PRC internet censorship “This Connection Has Been Reset” in the March issue of the Atlantic in which he makes the interesting point that many other countries when they censor online information, the page that comes up states that this information is blocked, but that is not generally done in China. So the CN.Yahoo page may be breaking the mold just a bit. Lots of censorship in China seems to masquerade as a computer network or a computer malfunction!
As of May 4th, Carrefour searches in Chinese were again allowed. After seeing it mentioned on a blog, I confirmed it myself and saw a story on the webpage of China Computer World.

Carrefour Boycott Craze Analyzed by Former Red Guard


A commentary on the boycott craze from the web in Chinese. This article is being circulated on some Chinese blogs today. I found 2210 hits on Google.cn for the title of this article “” “Don’t Boycott French Goods, Just Boycott the Idiotic Goods”
What I find most interesting on the Chinese web, be it on forums or blogs, is what can be learned from Chinese analyses of China. One might get some hints of public opinion from web postings, yet since ones against the propaganda line of the day are in danger of getting erased quickly, and internet use is still skewed towards the young, so it should be used carefully in trying to understand public opinion.
From a Chinese blog posting still available online:


From today, I will boycott irrational behavior with respect to Carrefour. So I am forwarding Mr. He’s article, everyone let’s take things calmly.

[A brief summary]:

When the information we get all comes from one source, people’s thinking will certainly not be rational. We have had too many lessons, and seen too many stupidities. One person’s mistake is no big deal, the big danger is when everyone makes the same mistake. I have been getting anti-Carrefour short messages, saying that we should boycott Carrefour because the French government supports ZD (code for Tibet independence Zangdu ) and the French president will not attend the Olympics opening ceremony. ….. When I see the sentiments expressed these last few days, they really scare me. spreading like some kind of contagious disease. Why France? France has had quite a few disagreements with the USA these past few years, and has agreed with China on quite a few issues. And now because Sarkozy was elected on the one man one vote principle, the French people have changed? In the West people can express any view, but the police are quick to suppress violence. Just compare that with China. That is something we Chinese need to learn how to do. If you don’t believe this, well, why don’t Chinese students organize an anti-DL demonstration in Beijing??

I understand those emotional people. Forty years ago I was one of them. “A wave from Chairman Mao and we all march forth.” And really messed the country up. I nearly got myself killed too. In those days, the best method of the dictatorial ruler was to set up an information barrier, just as our radios in our neighbor North Korea only pick up one channel, so the people of North Korea’s beliefs will be just like Kim Jung-Il’s. Though our country was on the edge of economic collapse, we angry youth swore that we would rescue the suffering masses in the capitalist countries.

Although China has made great economic strides, in people’s thinking there is still a lot of back and forth. The reason is simple. When a sudden incident occurs, we go back to our old habits and an information barrier is set up.

“People directly involved are confused, while bystanders see more clearly.” The lesson that I have learned is always ask is our information from only one source? We see the resulting information but not how it has changed.

[The next section is a masterpiece in dodging filtering. I summarize my understanding of it.]
“The Tibet question is very complicated. The DL has over the past decades has moved from independence ot a middle path and recognizes Tibet to be a part of China. However there are factions under DL. The Tibet Youth Congress wants independence and opposes the Olympics and calls for violence. But we cannot simply place all the responsibility for this on DL. Just as all the responsibility for the extreme factions under him that he cannot control cannot be placed on Yasser Arafat. Treating them all the same is a failed policy at least and as a result cannot stop violence and makes it impossible to reach some people who might otherwise be reached. “

“As long as you don’t seek independence, anything can be discussed.” It seems that this central government policy is still in force. Taiwan is watching. If the Tibet issue is not handled well, there is no hope for recovering Taiwan.

Still more interesting stuff in the Chinese text at the URL below —http://southwolf2008.blog.sohu.com/85217896.html


PRC Media Pushback Against Boycott of France’s Carrefour

Push back against the boycott France netter wave is clear in the Chinese media. On page two this week’s Digest Weekly Wenzhai Zhoubao published by the Sichuan Daily, on the same page two of a digest article entitled “Don’t Buy Even a Bottle of Water!? –Netters Boycott French Products Tidal Wave that points out that Carrefour is a joint venture, most of the workers and goods are Chinese, and in these days of globalization, boycotting foreigners hurts one’s own country, so political anger doesn’t translate well into economic actions.

One that same page is an article “The Patriotism Feeling That Turned Americans Into Idiots” — apparently a warning that excessive nationalism can bring disaster to China.

The Chinese version below I found online is a slightly longer version than appeared in the paper.

Summary: After the 9/11 attacks, Americans were admired around the world for their coolheaded and public spirited response to the terrorist attacks. Afterwards, however, excessive patriotism and a dumb president led the U.S. into the quagmire of Iraq. The Congress and the U.S. Media that exposes so many evils in society, even though sometimes it pays too much attention to the negaive, could not counterbalance the strong wave of patriotic feelings. The result was a sharp decline in the international image of the U.S. The U.S. experience with excessive patriotic feeling and where it can lead should be learned by other countries so that they don’t have to pay the same price. When someone like Bush gets a hold of “patriotic feeling”, it can lead to disaster. Policymakers especially need to pay very close attention to this danger.


于2008-04-16 11:29:06 发表的话题









Google.Cn Boycott Blogmeter Down Two-Thirds on April 18

Boycott references to Carrefour 家乐福 stores in China on Chinese blogs using the Google.cn blog function at http://blogsearch.google.cn/?hl=zh-CN&ie=UTF-8&q=&lr=&tab=ib

show a sharp decline on April 18 but then a rebound on Saturday April 19 (more time for blogging?) and then a drop again on Sunday. The first time I use this blog hit counting tool, which seems to be useful, especially since for each hit on a term in a blog the first few lines of the blog entry appear — often enough to get the tone of the entry.
Here are the results:

April 13 23
April 14 1957
April 15 2893
April 16 5774
April 17 6523
April 18 2448

April 19 7720

April 20 4856

A handy tool, the Google.cn Blog search function shows the first few lines of each blog that comes up as a hit. Captured in the attached photo.

References to Carrefour doubled on April 16th, rose only about 10% on April 17th and then fell by two-thirds on April 18.

One blogger said “well, now that a boycott has been called, we can’t not boycott Carrefour or foreigners won’t take us seriously next time!”
There were moderate bloggers as well as firebreathers.
For example from a 28 year old Chinese who has studied in France.



如 果你准备要去抵制家乐福:

第一,是因为家乐福参与了资助达赖集团吗?短讯说,是因为家乐福的大股东,法国首富阿尔诺的LVMH集 团(还是个人?)资助过达赖。第一,证据呢?第二,对于不少人来说,特别是佛教徒来说,一生的心愿 就是要见到达赖,这是不能抹杀的事实,那这些人的捐赠,难道都是支持藏独吗?

第 二,是因为家乐福是法国企业,而法国政府在处理火炬传递问题上,还有北京奥运问题上,表现让中国人气愤。问题是,中国的家乐福是一家相当本土化的公司,因 为当初为了规避政策,要尽早进入中国市场开店,需要和中国的公司合资。就算是家乐福集团,大股东是蓝色资本,由阿尔诺和一个美国的私募基金合资,占有百分 之10.7家乐福的股份。所以可以这样说,抵制中国的家乐福,就不是单纯地抵制法国货那样简单了。

尽管我想通了这两个问题之后,觉得抵制家乐福这样的行动,的确值得大家讨论,而事实上,这样的讨论,在互联网上也已经是进行起来了。 但是,这样的建议,是否真的是毫无意义,或者是被有的人所认为的,很愚蠢呢?那绝对不是。

每 个人都有权利表达自己的感受,觉得作为中国人的感情被法国政府伤害了,觉得被一些法国媒体伤害了,被一些法国民众伤害了,于是决定要用这样的方式,让对方 听到自己的声音,这是个人的选择,你可以不支持,不参与,不认同,但是不应该去辱骂有这样的想法的人,是愚蠢,因为,因为你的不认同,在有这样的想法和冲 动的人的眼中,你可能就是懦弱。为对方定性,本身就是很不宽容和民主的思维。

而对于那些不参与,不支持,甚至反对的人,也不要动不动冠上不爱国的帽子,如果有人就是要去家乐福购物,那也是别人的选择,并不代表 他们对于最近发生的事情,不愤慨,不痛心,只是,大家选择不同的方法而已。

事实上,这样的一条短信已经引发了国际媒体的关注,如果你搜索一下CARREFOUR TIBET,你可以有十三多万个搜索结果,众多英文媒体和网站都在引用,Chinese demand Carrefour boycott for Tibet support (中国民众谴责家乐福,因为支持西藏而抵制), 路透社今天发自北京的报道。这些中国民众要表达的声音,已经传递出去了,接下来怎样做,那就是民众自己在经过思考和衡量之后的决定。

今 天在节目里面和巴黎的同事连线,主要是请他谈谈法国媒体对于这件事情的报道态度,我问得很仔细,那些带有偏见的报道,到底是新闻报道,还是专栏文章,还是 社论,因为对于一家媒体来说,这三种不同类型的稿件,所传递的信息以及代表的立场是不同的。同事告诉我,是在新闻报道里面充满了偏见,而且,因为法国媒体 一向爱热闹,之前的火炬传递让他们兴奋了一阵,之后就安静了下来,现在又有了这样一个抵制法国货的热点,马上是如获至宝,大肆炒作。同事说,作为在法国工 作和生活的中国人,都感觉到,和原本无拘无束的法国朋友之间,有些话,聊不起来了,大家都是小心翼翼的。

这样的感受,或者和在中国的法国人和他们的中国朋友之间是一样的。今天我让记者采访几位在中国的法国商人,结果都已太敏感而拒绝了。 其中一个,已经做完了访问,但是思前想后,又打来了电话,表示还是不同意播出,因为她的先生是中国人,她担心,为她的先生带来麻烦。

法 国驻中国大使倒是很爽快地表示愿意考虑,在征询了巴黎的意见之后,接受了访问。他说,中国民众呼吁这样的抵制没有道理,家乐福对此保留了依法追究法律责任 的权利。奥运是一个增进友谊的机会,而包括法国在内的国家都希望中国就西藏问题增加透明度。如果中国民众对法国政府存在有误解,会尽力去消除。

倒是回到上海的金晶在接受我们的访问的时候表现得相当理性,她说,在法国的时候,她也感受到支持中国办奥运的法国人的那种热情,她认 为,问题出在法国政府身上,大家不应该针对法国企业,更何况,企业里面都是中国人。

不 管法国驻华大使的回应是否让人觉得还是有点点傲慢,至少有一点可以肯定,法国当局是注意到中国一些民众的不满情绪,也听到了这样的声音了。我只是想说,我 们可以反对那些支持藏独的人,我们可以对法国政府表示不满,但是不要把这种情绪扩散到其他法国人的身上,因为这样的话,反而会把这些人,对到我们的对立面 上去。即使是LVHM集团也好,老板个人也好,如果他只是崇拜达赖,那也可以理解,毕竟达赖的和平 使者形象在西方已经深入人心,毕竟他还曾经是诺贝尔和平奖的获得者。或许你可以说这是达赖的伪装,但是人家伪装的好,骗了很多人,那你也不能把那些受骗的 人都当成敌人吧。


About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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